New Local Emergency Plan Appendix Developed for Animal Planning
LEPC-6, at their April meeting, hosted the newly forming Windham Disaster Animal Response Team (DART) along with Joanne Bourbeau, the Northeastern Director of the Humane Society of the United States and the Vermont DART statewide Chair. What came out of that meeting was a desire for Emergency Planner and LEPC-6 Secretary, Alyssa Sabetto, to develop a an animal planning element to be included as part of the Local Emergency Operations Plan (LEOP) that gets updated yearly by towns.
This was seen by the group as a doable step that may encourage more towns to pro-actively consider and plan for animals in disasters. Experience and research has shown that some people who would otherwise evacuate their homes will not do so if they don't know how their animals, especially their pets, can be sheltered or otherwise cared for. It was such an issue during Hurricane Katrina that the Congress passed the PETSAct, which amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to ensure that State and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.
This newly developed addendum to the LEOP addresses planning for and caring for companion and domestic animals during a disaster. This document is meant to encourage consideration and planning for animals in a municipality by determining such things as where they can shelter, who can offer emergency veterinary care, and where there are animals at high risk during disasters. This draft document has been shared with Vermont Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security for consideration of integration into the LEOP for use by towns across the state.
Vermont has the largest per capita rate of pet ownership in the country, with 71% of households claiming to have pets, so it's likely that pet owners and animal-related business owners will turn to their local emergency managers for assistance during times of crisis. Having the information on this form pre-determined and available during a disaster will enable town officials to answer questions, give direction and make connections quickly and easily.